January 11, 2020

Neil Peart Will Be Missed

Rush in concert
Enrico Frangi [Public domain]

Neil Peart, considered by many (including me) to be one of the greatest drummers of all time, died on January 7. The music world owes him much, and he will be missed. Even casual Rush fans are feeling a sense of loss, and Peart was probably as influential as anyone could be when it came to people serious musicians cite as their major influences.

The first time I heard Rush was in the mid-1980s. Discovering new music was difficult in those days, especially if one was looking for something in the hard rock or metal genres. I had picked up a compilation cassette for $3 I found in the bargain bin of a local drug store. It contained Tom Sawyer by Rush along with several other decent songs by other bands. I had heard of Rush, but this was the first time I had heard any of their music. As much as I liked Tom Sawyer, I was not thrilled with the synthesizers as this wasn't the sound I was looking for at the time. It made a positive impression, and I mentally filed it away as something I'd have to investigate further.

A few years later, one of my friends played Rush's Exit...Stage Left album. I was immediately hooked. We listened to it 3 times that night, and I bought my own copy the next time I was in a record store. My friend was a drummer, and he had been raving about Peart. Any skepticism I may have had disappeared when I heard that album. It remains one of my favorites today.

My friend had warned me that Rush's style had changed a number of times over the years and that their music from some periods was very different from others. This made me cautious about blind-buying their studio albums, and so Exit was the only one in my collection during high school.

When I started college, I discovered that my Freshman roommate was a Rush fan. He had 2112, Moving Pictures, and a couple other studio albums. My high school friend had been right that Rush sounded very different at different stages in their career. I found myself liking their older material more, but the musicianship on all of it was amazing. They were one of those rare bands where it seemed like I discovered something new every time I listened to one of their albums.

I saw Rush in concert once during college. Strangely, it was the first time I remember hearing about them playing anywhere near where I was. It was a great show. Although my interest in seeing bands live was declining at this point due to having seen so many in a relatively short period of time, I was thrilled to have the chance to see them.

I have all of Rush's albums in my collection and listen to many of them regularly. Still, I'd describe myself as only a casual fan and acknowledge that I have been disappointed with some of their later albums (e.g., Test for Echo). The thing about Rush, though, is that even their worst albums are usually superior to much of what is out there because of the musicianship. Obviously, Neil Peart was a big part of that. I'm not sure his contribution to music can be quantified. I'll certainly miss him.

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